Here’s what we know about the $155M Redwood City housing project that burned in massive fire

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (KGO) — Firefighters continue putting out flareups at the affordable housing construction site near Redwood City that went up in flames Monday morning.

Menlo Park Fire Protection District Division Chief Fire Marshal Jon Johnston said they think the fire started on the fifth floor but it’s still unclear how.

Despite there being 130 workers on site, nobody was hurt and fire officials say dozens of construction workers evacuated safely.

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“We have one of two buildings that were under construction,” Division Chief Johnston said. “The one that burnt was a [104-unit] apartment complex that was in the process of being sheet-rocked and insulated, in the phase of construction.”

This was a $155 million affordable housing project a decade in the making. It was slated to have 179 units in all, a childcare center and more. It was a joint effort by San Mateo County and Mercy Housing.

In a statement to ABC7 News, the contractor James E. Roberts-Obayashi Corp. said that this was the worst disaster in its 92-year history.

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One-hundred homes were evacuated Monday. The building is now considered a total loss.

Strong wind not only made it a difficult firefight, it also led to spot fires and debris that spread across a wide radius.

“We had debris all the way down into Palo Alto I’m hearing this morning which is amazing,” said Jon Johnston, Division Chief Fire Marshal with the Menlo Park Fire Protection District.

Still that fire was most dangerous for those who lived right next to it.

“When I evacuated the flames were already over (the house) and the heat was so intense and embers falling I was for sure like ‘We’re gonna lose the house'”, James Smith Said.

James and Michelle Smith were finally able to go back into their home Tuesday morning after an overnight evacuation.

Michelle said that they moved fast to protect their home when the fire first broke out Monday.

“He ran out with the water hose, and he started just basically watering our backyard and our neighbor’s yards,” she said.

Their house was spared though their backyard is torn apart, the downed fence revealed more of the extensive damage done to the building.

The Menlo Park Fire Protection District said Tuesday that the cause was still under investigation.

The affordable housing project was planned to have 179 units.

It was a joint effort by San Mateo County and Mercy Housing.

Fire crews continued to monitor hotspots more than 24 hours after the fire was contained and said they’d stay in place for as long as needed.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.